In the Viewpoint column of PBM’s April edition, the magazine’s editor Paul Davies discussed the growing severity of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Please note, as events are changing at such a rapid pace, it should be noted this column was written on March 18. Click here to see all the latest updates on the PBM website.
There is only one topic to discuss this month, yet it is imperative to tackle any conversation about the coronavirus crisis carefully. With daily briefings from the Prime Minister and his senior advisers, the strategy — from both a health and economic perspective — remains in a necessary state of flux, with the guidance understandably subject to continual evolution.
Similarly, confusion remains and disinformation is a clear and present danger in the face of such an unprecedented threat to the nation’s health. Accordingly, it is vital that the population is fully engaged, and that responsible journalism and honest politics serve to rebuild the shattered faith in so many of the country’s institutions after a period that has been all too painful and divisive.
The role of the BBC could be crucial in disseminating information, whilst it is essential that the most up-to-date advice is followed from the most trusted sources available such as www.nhs.uk and www.gov.uk
It is simply incumbent on all of us to follow the advice to help limit the spread of the virus, and though health concerns clearly have to be paramount, the effect on the economy is likely to be devastating. As if the scenario could be any worse, it seems especially cruel that we have entered a period of turmoil just as we thought a corner had been turned following the election.
Uncertainty has returned on a level that was inconceivable only a few days ago, with disruption impacting the way we all do business and changes to established working practices becoming a fact of life for many in the country. The government is unveiling substantial support measures to protect against the worst possible consequences, though it remains impossible to judge whether it is doing enough to support firms of all sizes and their employees against such seemingly immediate jeopardy.
It is imperative that, in addition to the need for clear and decisive leadership, the government remains in listening mode and responds to the concerns raised by industry. Failure to do so will only seriously undermine any recovery once the medical crisis abates, whenever that may be.
With the government largely offering guidance rather than firm directives (thus far), the onus is on businesses to implement the plans that will keep their employees and customers safe and well — and to continue trading. It will be difficult to say the least, but there are options. Communication with suppliers, customers, trade organisations and buying groups will be vital. PBM will strive to play its part wherever possible, so please check in with our website and social media streams for updates.
As a final point, we have received messages from the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and the Rainy Day Trust with both organisations highlighting the especially precarious position many individuals in this sector are finding themselves in as a consequence of the crisis. Lighthouse, for example, is urging that its 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline — 0345 6051956 — is promoted as much as possible whilst the Rainy Day Trust has “robust measures in place to keep applications (for emergency assistance) moving” and its counselling service 0203 1920486 is available.
Both, however, are also urgently seeking the support of the industry as their event-based income streams have been severely constrained in these extraordinary times. We are well aware that business owners and senior merchant staff are under severe pressure at this moment, but there has never been a more important time for this wonderful sector to pull together.
“As if the scenario could be any worse, it seems especially cruel that we have entered a period of turmoil just as we thought a corner had been turned following the election.”